Crunchy Roll Sushi Recipe

4 rolls
40 min

· Print Recipe

Treat your taste buds to a delicious crunchy roll filled with cool cucumber, creamy avocado succulent sashimi (or imitation crab meat) topped with crispy onions to bring a satisfying crunch. Whether you've tried your hand at homemade sushi before or this is your first attempt, this sushi roll recipe is straightforward, versatile and guaranteed to rival your favorite Japanese restaurants.

The post contains additional information and helpful tips to ensure the recipe turns out great the first time. Please use the link above to jump to the recipe card at the end if you are in a hurry!

A serving of Crunchy Sushi Roll

✅ 3 reasons why you'll love this recipe:

  • Fresh, flavourful and crunchy - soft, satisfyingly chewy sushi rice, crisp nori, succulent sashimi or imitation crab sticks, with a delightfully crisp crunchy onion topping.
  • Versatile - fill the rolls with your favourite sashimi or use imitation crab sticks for a convenient and cost-effective option.
  • Fail-safe step-by-step instructions - even if you have never made a sushi roll before.

🛒 Key ingredients and variations:

Which rice is best for making sushi?

Japanese short or medium-grain rice is best for making sushi because the grains stick together. This type of rice is commonly referred to as ‘sushi rice’ and is available in many supermarkets as well as Asian Grocery stores. Do not be tempted to swap this for another type of rice like basmati, as the sushi will fall apart.

Which type of fish should I use?

A crunchy sushi roll will taste great with several varieties of raw and cooked fresh fish. Tuna and salmon sashimi are fresh and tasty, just make sure they are sashimi grade. If raw fish is hard to get hold of or simply doesn’t appeal, cooked crab meat or imitation crab sticks are convenient, cost-effective and easy-to-find.


The sauces add additional flavour and act as the glue that holds the crunchy onions onto the rice. My recipe includes instructions for a mildly spicy sriracha mayo and a sweet umami eel sauce. You can use store-bought teriyaki sauce instead of eel sauce if you are short on time.

🧑‍🍳 Crunchy Sushi Rolls in 5 easy steps

1. Cook the rice

Soak the rice in water for 10 minutes and rinse until the water runs clear. Put the rice in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to boil and cook on high heat for 5 minutes. Then simmer on a medium heat for 10 minutes until the rice water is absorbed.

Meanwhile mix the rice vinegar, salt and sugar in a small jug or bowl. Stir this into the cooked rice and transfer to a shallow dish to cool.

Crunchy Sushi Roll Step 1

2. Make the sauces

Make the eel sauce by adding soy sauce, sugar, mirin and sake/water to a small pan, stir and bring to boil for 10 minutes. Set aside when done.

Meanwhile, make the sriracha mayo by mixing sriracha, mayonnaise, rice vinegar and sugar in a small bowl.

Crunchy Sushi Roll Step 2

3. Assemble

Prepare the dipping bowl and wrap the sushi rolling mat in a piece of plastic wrap. Place a nori sheet on top with the rough side facing up and spread an even layer of rice onto the sheet. Carefully turn the sheet over and place the crab sticks (or other fish), cucumber sticks, and avocado slices in a straight line onto the nori.

Crunchy Sushi Roll Step 3

4. Roll

Roll tightly until the bottom edge of the rice touches the nori sheet. Then place the rolling mat on the top of the roll and gently squeeze.

Crunchy Sushi Roll Step 4

5. Add sauce and crispy fried onions

Drizzle a small amount of eel sauce and sriracha mayo onto the sushi rolls and top with a generous layer of fried onions. Slice into even-sized pieces with a wet knife. Serve immediately with soy sauce, wasabi and sushi ginger, or refrigerate to enjoy later.

Crunchy Sushi Roll Step 5

👍 Top tips

  1. Rinse the rice until the water runs clear - it might be tempting to skip this step, but the excess starch on unrinsed rice will result in overly sticky rice that has an unpleasant gummy texture.
  2. Wet your hands and the knife - rolling and cutting sushi rolls is a lot easier when you wet your hands and knife with the water and vinegar mixture in the dipping bowl (tezu).
  3. Trim off the ends to neaten the rolls - if the ends of the rolls look a little uneven trim them a little to neaten them up.
Crunchy Sushi Roll

🙋 FAQs

What is a crunchy roll?A Crunchy California roll is a sushi roll that has a crunchy texture. It is often filled with tempura shrimp while other variations are filled with sashimi, or imitation crab meat. All crunchy rolls will have a crunchy outside made with crunchy tempura flakes, crispy panko breadcrumbs or crispy fried onions.

What is on the outside of a crunchy roll?The crispy texture of a crunchy roll is created by adding tempura flakes, panko breadcrumbs or crunchy onions to the outside of the roll. A sauce like eel sauce and / or sriracha or kewpie mayo is added first to add flavour and enable the crunchy topping to stick to the roll.

Is a crunchy sushi roll cooked?Crunchy sushi rolls are a great way to enjoy sushi if you are apprehensive about eating raw fish. They taste deliciously fresh when filled with sashimi but can also be filled with cooked fish like crispy shrimp tempura, poached shrimp or imitation crab meat.

What’s the difference between a Maki roll and a California crunch sushi roll?

The key difference is that maki rolls have rice on the inside and nori on the outside. California rolls are 'inside out' with nori on the inside and rice on the outside. They are often topped with black sesame seeds or tobiko whereas Crunchy California rolls have a crispy topping or tempura flakes, panko breadcrumbs or crispy fried onions.

🍣 Other types of sushi roll

One of my favorite things about sushi is that there are so many options to try. It certainly never gets boring.

Spicy California crunch roll - make a hotter crunchy roll with more sriracha mayo, spicy sauce or spicy mayonnaise. You can also fill the roll with spicy tuna or spicy salmon to make a spicy tuna or spicy crunchy salmon roll.

Shrimp tempura roll - a California roll filled with shrimp tempura, cucumber and creamy avocado slices.

Fried California sushi roll - made by dipping a crunchy roll in egg, sriracha and soy sauce, rolling in breadcrumbs and frying medium-high heat in a large skillet until golden brown.

Boston roll - shares some of the same fillings as the crunchy roll including avocado, cucumber and mayonnaise. It is filled with poached shrimp and topped with brightly coloured tobiko fish roe.

Dragon roll - inside-out rolls filled with shrimp tempura with thinly sliced avocado on the outside that resemble the scales of a dragon.

Philadelphia roll - filled with smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber and avocado.

Serving suggestions

I always like to serve sushi with a bowl of miso soup topped with green onion and warm edamame beans. A side of kani salad or imitation crab salad will also go nicely.

📦 Storage

Crunchy sushi rolls taste best when eaten fresh. However, they will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days if made with cooked fish like imitation crab sticks. If you are using raw sashimi refrigerate as soon as possible and consume within 24 hours. Place them in an airtight container or cover with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge as soon as possible.

Sushi is not suitable for freezing.

😋 Check out my other Japanese-inspired recipes

If you enjoyed these crunchy sushi rolls you should try some of my other Japanese recipes including my Katsu Curry, Grilled Mackerel Rice Bowl, and Chicken Ramen. They’re all super tasty and easy to put together.

Pork Katsu Curry

Grilled Mackerel Rice Bowls With Soy & Mirin Sauce

Easy Weeknight Chicken Ramen Recipe

Easy Soy Sauce Marinated Ramen Eggs Recipe

Did you try this recipe? It would be really great if you could leave a comment and a star rating ⭐️. I would love to receive your feedback and know that other readers find it helpful too.

Don't forget to tag on Instagram or @knifeandsoul on Pinterest!

📖 Recipe

Crunchy Roll Sushi Recipe
Recipe details
  • 4  rolls
  • Prep time: 20 Minutes Cook time: 20 Minutes Total time: 40 min
Show Nutrition Info
Hide Nutrition Info
Sushi rice
  • 300g (or 1.5 cups) of sushi rice
  • 350ml (or 1.5 cups water)
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1.5 tbsp sugar
  • 1.5 tsp salt
Eel sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
Sriracha Mayo
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • ¼ tbsp sriracha
  • ⅛ tsp (a pinch) sugar
  • ¼ tsp rice vinegar
For the Vinegar Water for Dipping Hands (Tezu)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
Other sushi ingredients
  • 120g (or 4 oz) imitation crab sticks, sushi-grade salmon or tuna
  • 1 ripe medium avocado - sliced into 1.5cm or 0.5 inch sticks
  • ¼ cucumber - deseeded and cut into sticks
  • 60g (or ½ cup) crunchy onions - spread onto a tray
  • 3-4 sheets nori
To serve (optional)
  • Soy sauce
  • Wasabi
  • Sushi ginger
Cook the rice
Place the rice in a large bowl cover it with water and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Then rinse the rice until the water is clear.
Place the rice in a saucepan and cover with water.
With the lid on boil on a high heat for 5 minutes then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes until the water has been absorbed. (Notes 1 & 2). You can make the eel sauce and sriracha mayo while the rice cooks.
Leave the rice with the lid on and mix the rice vinegar, salt and sugar in a small jug or bowl.
Transfer the rice to a large shallow dish or tray, pour on the rice vinegar mixture and fold in gently with a large spoon until evenly distributed.
Leave the rice to cool
Eel Sauce
Add the eel sauce ingredients to a small pan, mix and bring to boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. The sauce will thicken as it cools.
Sriracha Mayo
Mix the sriracha mayo ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Vinegar water for hand dipping
Mix the water and rice vinegar in a medium bowl that is large enough to dip your hands into and set aside.
Preparing the sushi
Take a piece of nori and place on the rolling mat with the rough side up.
Dip your hands into the water and rice vinegar tezu and spread an even layer of rice onto the nori sheet ensuring it reaches the ends and corners.
Flip the sheet over and place the fish, avocado and cucumber at the bottom of the nori.
Roll tightly until the bottom edge of the rice touches the nori sheet.
Then place the bamboo mat on top and tightly squeeze the roll.
Repeat steps 1 to 5 to make 3 more rolls.
Drizzle each roll in eel sauce then drizzle with sriracha mayo.
Top with an even layer of crispy fried onions.
Wet the blade of a sharp knife and cut each roll into eight even slices by cutting the roll in half, then cutting each section in half and half again.
Serve immediately with soy sauce, wasabi and sushi ginger or refrigerate to enjoy later.
  • Rice cooker instructions: Place the rinsed rice into the rice cooker pan, fill to the correct level and set the rice cooker to sushi mode. You can also cook sushi rice in your Instant Pot.
Helen | Knife & Soul
Want more details about this and other recipes? Check out more here!
  • Teri Vinson Teri Vinson on Nov 06, 2022

    Thank you for the detailed instructions and info on types of sushi and sashimi. I still have to get the bamboo mat to roll it with. And I guess practice, practice, practice will help. I can never get enough!

  • Marjorie Marjorie on Feb 19, 2023

    This looks so good. Did you make the crunchy onions?